The Answer to All of Your Social Distancing Loophole Questions Is No by Rachel Miller (Vice)

In late March, the director of the CDC warned that 25 percent of COVID-19 cases could be asymptomatic. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is advising the White House on coronavirus, said last week the figure could be as high as 50 percent. FIFTY PERCENT!!! One out of every two people could be carriers and not know it. You could be a carrier and not know it.

But a lot of folks are still approaching coronavirus from a place of, What are my personal odds of illness, and, if I get sick, of surviving the illness? versus, How can I not harm other people? It’s not just people who have been inside for a couple weeks without symptoms, either; people who are sick are engaging in astonishing mental gymnastics to convince themselves that, yes, they might have COVID-19, but they aren’t actually that contagious, and anyway, they are bored and want to go for a jog, so can you please leave them alone about it!!!

...Viruses don’t operate by potential carriers’ best intentions. They operate exclusively by our actions. No one is leaving their house thinking, I am going to be the superspreader who kills a bunch of people by running some errands/taking a walk with my friend/meeting up with a Tinder date today. Yet thousands and thousands of people have died.

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Garden beds at sunset

I woke up and started my morning on the couch, a hot mug of tea in front of me and my journal in my lap. I’ve always been a journaler, of course, but that’s taken on new importance in the last month, as I’ve felt some duty–as well as a desire–to chronicle what my life has looked like during this historic crisis. I will someday be a primary source, if for nobody more than myself and my people.

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This Is Not the Apocalypse You Were Looking For by Laurie PennyLaurie Penny (Wired)

This is because late capitalism has always been a death cult. The tiny-minded incompetents in charge cannot handle a problem that can’t be fixed simply by sacrificing poor, vulnerable, and otherwise expendable individuals. Faced with a crisis they can’t solve with violence, they dithered and whined and wasted time that can and will be counted in corpses. There has been no vision, because these men never imagined the future beyond the image of themselves on top of the human heap, cast in gold. For weeks, the speeches from podiums have suggested that a certain amount of brutal death is a reasonable price for other people to pay to protect the current financial system. The airwaves have been full of spineless right-wing zealots so focused on putting the win in social Darwinism that they keep accidentally saying the quiet bit out loud.

The quiet bit is this: To the rich and stupid, many of the economic measures necessary to stop this virus are so unthinkable that it would be preferable for millions to die. This is extravagantly wrong on more than just a moral level—forcing sick and contagious people back to work to save Wall Street puts all of us at risk. It is not only easier for these overpromoted imbeciles to imagine the end of the world than a single restriction on capitalism—they would actively prefer it.

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This is a beautiful essay about imagining something better. It’s both an obituary and a rallying cry, and I strongly recommended you read it to the end.

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Good evening, friends.

Today, as Rachel reported, our local hospital in Salem gave away sew-at-home kits for locals to make protective face masks. The plan was to distribute enough kits for 10,000 masks over the next two days.

The kits were completely given away within half an hour, and so many people showed up to claim some that a police officer had to direct traffic.

Many of us, especially in the US, grew up being taught a myth: that people are intrinsically selfish and lazy. Remove the monetary inventive to work, we’re told, and we’ll do nothing but sit on the couch or stare at the clouds. You have to be ready to be completely independent, we’re told, because when the chips are down, no one will want to help you.

Alexandra Erin, one of my favorite political commentators on Twitter, commented a couple years ago that our beliefs about “human nature” become manifest in a crisis. If you believe that there’s not enough for everyone and people are “naturally” going to pilfer and hoard, then your natural sense of self-preservation will encourage you to do the same. Like Vonnegut’s ice-nine, when that behavior is introduced into the community, it perpetuates itself: since you’re hoarding, your neighbors will see that there’s less to go around, and they too will be encouraged to do the same. But if you instead act as though there is enough, as if people are generally trustworthy and kind, as if the risk of being taken advantage of is existent but mitigable, then your generosity will create the conditions for its own replication.

It’s the difference between a mindset of scarcity and one of abundance.

Salemites, like many of us, have an abundance of time right now, and the natural human desire to work and help, so they cleared out those mask kits in under an hour. Last week, Divine Distillers, like many distillers across the country, recognized they had an abundance of equipment, know-how, and alcohol, so set to work creating alcohol-based sanitizer to give away for free. No one needed to be coerced. They simply saw their abundances and offered them to help their community.

Don’t believe it when someone tells you humans are naturally selfish. Look at how many people are staying home, sacrificing their free movement and their social lives so that this epidemic might be kept at bay. And don’t believe it when they say we’re naturally lazy–because look at how many of us are eager for something productive to do after only a week or two of isolation.

Take heart in the compassion of your fellow humans. Our world is nowhere near as nasty or barren as some might have you believe–if only we share our abundance.

Dream big and fight hard,
Your buddy Spencer

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This post was originally shared on my Facebook page.

Good morning, friends.

It is likely to get a lot worse this week. That’s the nature of exponential growth. Hopefully, within another week, we’ll start seeing the effects of our mitigation strategies, but given how spottily they’ve been implemented so far… I’m not confident.

This could have been prevented. So much of this could be prevented. But the president, the federal government, business owners, corporate shareholders–so many people who have the power to do something do not. They placate, they shift blame, they try to consolidate power.

Many people have spent the last four years insisting that somehow, the system will correct itself. By now, I hope that’s obviously false. All we have is each other. There’s no automatic safeguard, only people’s intentional choices.

I don’t want to encourage panic here. Panic doesn’t solve anything. But if you’ve got anger baking in your stomach, now is the time to interrogate it. Anger shows you what you value: it says there’s a gulf between where you are and where you think things ought to be. Anger is an activating emotion: it fills us with a surge of energy to try to close that gap.

So if you’re angry–what is the better world you envision? And what do you want to do to get there?

How much longer can this go on? If they give trillions of your money to bail out companies but fail to protect workers? If the federal government continues to withhold aid and refuses to order production of critical supplies? If the president keeps lying about unproven cures, lying about the disease, lying about his response–just plain lying?

How much longer will it go on before it spurs you to act?

A couple days ago, in my video on the threat response cycle, I said we’ve been freezing because neither fight nor flight are viable. But we aren’t helpless. While we still can’t punch coronavirus in the face, there ARE active things we can do. Like organizing. Like getting to know our neighbors. Like joining networks of mutual aid.

You can channel your anger and fear into those activities. Let your hands, shaking with rage, lay bricks for a better tomorrow.

It all starts with recognizing what is so broken and imagining how it could be different.

Dream big and fight hard,
Your buddy Spencer

PS: As much as you can, STAY THE FUCK HOME. ❤️

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This post was originally shared to my Facebook page.

As the federal government starts actually talking about some form of a temporary relief payment, let’s talk about means-testing.

Means-testing is the process by which the government decides who is eligible for a social service. Your income must be below X. Your family must look like Y.

How do you verify that someone’s income really is below X? Well, you have to inspect their accounts. You have to monitor them. You have to treat them with suspicion. You’re encouraged to err on the side of false positives–if you think someone might be ineligible, better to cut them off than risk letting someone “cheat the system”.

That requires extra resources.

For whatever reason, there’s a certain subset of liberals that have, this year, decided that the “universal” in “universal healthcare” and “universal basic income” should really mean “universal only for people who need it”. They welcome means-testing so that “the kids of rich billionaires don’t get free college”. And look, I understand the sentiment. It comes from a good place.

But the resources and system it would require to ensure that “only people who need it” get these benefits? They make the process so much more bloated, inefficient, and cruel.

Universal should mean universal. That’s the simplest way forward. If the government cuts you a $1000 emergency relief check and you don’t need it, then donate it to someone who does. Give it to the Americans United to Eat the Rich charity of your choice. You have many options for not keeping it. But let’s not preemptively burden a program for social good with the stipulations, bureaucracy, and inefficiency that means-testing requires.

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This post was originally shared on my Facebook page.

Good evening, friends.

I think for many of us, it’s starting to settle in that we’re in for a marathon, not a sprint. Today, Oregon Governor Kate Brown extended the state’s school closures through April 28th. Today is also the day that Oregon’s closure of dine-in restaurants and bars went into effect. Thousands of Oregonians, my brother included, are now either out of work or very near. McMenamin’s, a local brewpub and hospitality chain, is laying off 3,000 workers. It’s a temporary measure so the workers can immediately claim unemployment, but still–this is huge.

I’ll be honest: I’m feeling the weight of this today. I’m seeing clients via video chat and suspecting that I may not see them face-to-face again for a long time. There’s an enormity to this. A pandemic is beyond the human comprehension in so many ways: it is spread by invisible viruses, an effective response looks like an overreaction, and it connects us all, on a scale so much greater than we can grasp. Add to that the huge uncertainty in what comes next, the disappointment in our leaders and the decades-long decimation of our social fabric, and… oof. Yeah. I’m gonna need a good cry tonight.

Part of being in it for the long haul means recognizing that our emotions are likely to run the gamut. This isn’t like an afternoon of protest, where you’ll be driven by one or two primary feelings. This is very likely going to be part of the fabric of our lives for months. You’ll feel calm and capable for a while, you’ll feel worried or stressed or anxious, you’ll feel angry, you’ll feel hopeful, and, yeah, you may also just feel depressed. Despondent. Overwhelmed.

That’s normal. And if we expect it, we don’t need to be surprised or disappointed when we or the people we love run into it.

I don’t have much to give tonight, and that’s okay. One of my favorite quotes goes, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” In the coming months, we’re all going to have times when we’re tapped out. If this pandemic is a marathon rather than a sprint, then it behooves all of us to practice taking care of ourselves just as much as we would anyone else, and falling back when we need to regroup.

When you’re rested and ready again, there’s good work to be done as we march toward a brighter future together.

Dream big and fight hard,
Your buddy Spencer

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This post was originally shared on my Facebook page.

A couple things tonight before bed:

1. Now is a great time to pick up journaling! Even if you just log what happened in the day, it’s a good way to fight boredom. Plus, it’s not every day that you live through a pandemic–your seemingly mundane (or not) observations today might make really interesting reading in the future!

2. Even when we’re cooped up, we’re still humans, and that means we’re still creative and artistic and appreciative of things that speak to the human spirit. Now would be an awesome time to practice and share a skill with your friends. Sing! Play an instrument! Draw! Write poetry, or read it! It won’t be perfect, and that’s okay–maybe one thing we shed as we walk through this pandemic can be our inhuman perfectionistic expectations of ourselves. A big tip of the hat to my friend Meaghan Russell for inspiring this with her #SequesterSongs project.

3. Please strongly consider reaching out to your neighbors if you haven’t already. I did so on Friday via letter and have already heard from three of the households that live on my street. We are going to be so much stronger during this if we can rely on one another and form networks of mutual aid. No one knows where this is going–so try to start forming solidarity now.

4. As the effects of the pandemic intensify, practice taking stock. What do you have in abundance? That’s what you can share. What is scarce for you? That’s where you can turn to your community for help. There’s no shame in personal scarcity–it’s impossible to have everything all the time.

5. From my own experience, my anxiety is at its worse when I feel like I’m alone and have to shoulder it all myself. Don’t be silly and anxious like me. Reach out to your friends. Reach out to your neighbors. Reach out to the people who will help carry the load with you. This world was not meant to be borne on individual backs.

6. In terms of personal projects, I’m still working at getting Motley, my little social network, ready to launch. With more and more of us practicing social distancing, I realize online communication is gonna become all the more important. Believe me, I want to get Motley off the ground so that we have a little community space that’s not run by a giant untrustworthy megacorporation.

7. Also, I’m working on moving my blog, which is why I’m posting this big thing here instead of there.

8. Finally, I’ll reiterate what I said earlier this weekend: I have an open invitation to anyone who wants to chat via text, phone, or video. I’m on Marco Polo and Signal, both of which are great apps. Reach out if you’re feeling cabin fever, or if you just want to say hi.

I’ve long hated the overuse of this slogan and its endless remixes, but I think it’s more apt now than ever before in my life: keep calm and carry on. We’ll get through this together. Don’t let fear harden your heart or wall you off.

Dream big and fight hard,
Your buddy Spencer